Gentrification Displaces Latino Business Owners in Manhattan

Hispanic businesses on Essex Street Market have suffered commercial gentrification on the Lower East Side. (Photo by Humberto Arellano via El Diario-La Prensa)

Hispanic businesses at the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side have suffered commercial gentrification. (Photo by Humberto Arellano via El Diario-La Prensa)

Two decades ago, Latinos ran the majority of commercial establishments on the Lower East Side’s historic Essex Street Market, founded in 1940. That was to be expected since the market is located in one of the Big Apple’s major Puerto Rican neighborhoods, the famous Losaida.

Today, as a result of gentrification, only five Latino business owners remain.

The sixth would have been Carmen Salvador, a 54-year-old Dominican woman, but last April the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the city agency in charge of Essex Street Market, decided not to renew her permit.

“My world has fallen apart,” said Salvador, who ran the Three Brothers store for 23 years. “When they took away my work and my relationship with the community where I have always lived, they took away my life.”

The community organization Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) has aided Salvador in filing a lawsuit against the city, based on the claim that the decision to not renew her permit was “arbitrary” and “goes against the law protecting people with disabilities,” according to MFY Legal Services, the law firm representing Salvador.

Carlina Rivera, director of programming and services at GOLES, said that EDC rejected Salvador’s application because she was not following a stipulation that obliged her to keep the store open for a certain number of days each week. Salvador argued that she had to close her shop various times due to health complications.

“I understand that the administration wants to make money,” said Rivera. “But they have to be more sensitive towards the community and with someone who has been working here for more than 20 years.”

EDC did not want to comment because “the matter is under litigation, but we disagree with Ms. Salvador’s version of the situation,” according to a press release issued by the New York City Law Department.

At Essex Street Market, all the Latino merchants know what happened to Salvador.

“We hope that the same thing doesn’t happen to us Latinos who remain,” said Luis Batista, 42, who has owned a grocery store for 18 years. “It’s become complicated to keep up the business because it takes effort to maintain the prices that the community which has always lived here is used to.”

Part of the customer base continues to be the shrinking Latino population of the nearby public housing projects.

“I’ve been buying from here for 40 years and I’m not going to change now,” said Raúl Vargas, a 66-year-old Puerto Rican man, while consulting a rosary in a shop selling religious items. 

Currently, however, the majority of customers are people who have brunch with mimosas on the weekend or buy high-end food products at their various “gourmet” shops.

“It’s changing, everything’s changing.”

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  1. Pingback: Gentrification Displaces Latino Business Owners in Manhattan … | Latino Chamber of Commerce - Bienvenidos a Nuestro Nuevo Sitio Web

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